Monday, January 21, 2013
Stupid Thing, Part 428 (Propane Edition)
On Friday, I got cold. Not "a cold," just cold. I cuddled under blankets and chalked it up to the Arctic breeze that is Iowa right now.
On Saturday, I got colder. I went to look at the thermostat. It said 64 degrees. It was set to 68 degrees. Hmmm. I turned it off and turned it back on. I pushed on my neck to get my ear whoosh to stop and really listened. I could hear the furnace trying to turn on, but no air was coming out of the vents. So I did this little game where I turned the furnace on and off and on and off and wandered around listening to vents. Then I took a deep breath, bundled up, and went outside to check the propane tank.
And it was empty.
Um, you're NOT supposed to let that happen. In fact, it can be quite dangerous.
So I looked around for a propane bill. I assumed that I was the bad guy -- that I had somehow missed a bill and not paid them. I searched and searched and searched. No bill. I must have thrown it away. I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON!! It was Saturday at 4:45pm. Shame Monster? Check.
I called the cell phone number for the nearby propane distributor. No, I wasn't the only one who'd had this happen. But unfortunately, there was a Christmas party that night. No one would be answering their phones or coming to deliver propane. I explained that I probably owed money. He would work with me. He'd call me the next day. God bless Iowans.
So I sucked it up and went to spend the night at my parents' house. Like I said, God bless Iowans.
Sunday. Still no propane. It was now 52 degrees in Farmhouse Villa. Gretchen and Webster were extremely cuddly and wanting to know WHY SO COLD?! Yes, they're covered in fur, but they're INDOOR cats who are used to full time heat. I found every blanket in the house and spread them over the bed. I put on two sweatshirts, a shirt-jacket (they're an Iowa thing) and nestled in onto the couch to Wait for the Propane Guy.
Here's the thing about propane: It heats the water, too. So no hot shower. No steaming pot of water on the stove. No nothing. Just cold. Arctic cold.
I waited and waited and waited. I didn't want to call because I didn't want to be a demanding, annoying propane girl if I owed them money. I cried. I didn't know what to do. I was literally and figuratively frozen. I left two sad, pathetic messages on Propane Man's phone in the evening. By 8:30pm, the writing was on the wall.
By now, my sister and my parents were calling me on a rotating 15 minute schedule. Each party was offering advice and checking in and worrying. This didn't really help matters. There was nothing I could do. Period. I dug my own hole, and I had to sit in it. It was my fault.
My propane tank holds about 400 gallons. I have no idea how much is used for a simple shower or to heat my house to 68 degrees for one month. All I know is that every winter, I go through this. But usually, I'm on a scheduled delivery. One day out of the blue, the propane truck will show up and fill the tank and leave me a bill. You owe $500 for propane. Right now. It's awesome. OK, it f*cking sucks. But this is how you live in the country. It's part of life. I grew up sitting on my parents' propane tank pretending it was a horse before I figured out it was basically a large bomb. Oh, childhood. How I miss being that naive. Anyway, the propane dude never lets the tank go below 30% before he fills it. Until now.
By 9pm, I was waiting for it to be 10pm, so I could go crawl in bed and try to sleep it off. I was SO COLD. My can of soda was colder than it had been in the fridge. The cats were huddling next to the little radiator heater that gave off heat for a whopping 4 inches in any direction. It was sitting in the middle of the house. Pa said it would keep the pipes from freezing. Maybe. Outside, it was 17. Inside, it was 48.
I refused to go to my parents' or call a friend because I Was Very Grumpy. I just wanted to get the evening over with so I could deal with the propane already. All around me, the pipes were dripping to keep the water from freezing. The ice in my glass of water did not melt.
I was filled with horror, shame, and self-beating-up stuff. Failure. Loser. Look what you have done.
I had visions of owing the propane man thousands of dollars. I didn't know what to do.
So I crawled in bed with all of those layers of clothes on AND eight blankets, which were heavy. My back strained as I tried to pull them up to my nose. Webster, who NEVER lets me put a blanket on him happily crawled in with me and nestled up tight under the nest. He didn't budge the whole night. Gretchen slept on my feet, obviously oblivious in her Maine Coon long coat. I was kind of warm under the blankets, but my face and nose were so cold. Even my hair felt cold. It was so weird. I tossed and turned and beat myself up.
At 7:30am, the phone rang. It was the propane man calling to tell me he'd gone to bed super early the previous night. He apologized and asked if I was OK? I am cold.
Now for the verdict. What do I owe?
What? The? F*ck?
Well, it turns out I forgot to sign the propane contract this year. You pay in and they put you on the route. I forgot. That's all. A simple slip of the mind. A senior moment. No harm, no foul. But since I don't have a contract, I had to come in and pay up front for 400 gallons.
Did you know today is a holiday?
That the bank is closed?
That I also currently do not have that much money in my account? Because I'm waiting for a check that WILL NOT COME today because there is no mail because IT'S A HOLIDAY?
COULD IT GET ANY WORSE? Well, it could. I could have owed them thousands of dollars in unpaid propane.
So God bless my parents, my father threw me a bone and drove me to the propane place to drop a load of cash for gas. By the time we got back, the propane man was in the yard filling up the tank. But I had to pay an extra fee because if you run out of propane, they have to come in and test everything to make sure YOUR HOUSE DOESN'T EXPLODE.
So he came in and lit the stove and the furnace and we waited and waited and then PRESTO MAGIC I heard the furnace turn on.
It was 41 degrees in Farmhouse Villa at 8am. It's now 4pm, and it's 63 degrees. I am still cold. But I'm getting there. Finally.
Thank you, parents.